A couple of days ago, a metamorphosed Mohanlal, moustache-less, silky smooth-skinned, sporting blue tees, dark shades and fitted jeans was hailed by all, from the who’s who of filmdom to diehard fans; they all went gaga about the actor’s new avatar. The photos of the actor in his late 50s broke the internet with people literally drooling over his charisma. In a terrible irony, it is the same social media buffs who couldn’t stand the sight of Rajeshwari, the mother of Jisha, the girl who was brutally murdered in Perumbavoor more than a year ago.
Rajeshwari, who, a year ago, appeared devastated, wailing, in her grey hair and unkempt clothes, looked healthier and stronger in better clothes and coloured hair, much to the ire of many netizens who found it hard to accept the makeover of a woman who refused to appear ‘shattered’ after having lost her daughter and estranged husband. Social media is abuzz with ‘diktats for a widow’ and accusations of Rajeshwari using the ‘blood money’ of her daughter to buy expensive sarees and tip hotel waiters. Why is society obsessed with judging an ageing woman on her appearance, without realising that she needs to move on?
“That’s because our society can’t accept a survivor, especially if she belongs to a lower social class,” says writer S. Saradakutty.
“If a woman who is supposed to be grieving goes to watch a movie, learns to drive or attends weddings, misogynists — that includes both men and women — rush to criticise her. They would never want to know how these women lived before the death of their dear ones. Whether she was happy or safe till then is never their concern. All that matters to these do-gooders is that she doesn’t deserve to appear happy. It is unfortunate and it will take centuries for them to get justice,” she feels. In Rajeshwari’s case, Saradakutty thinks whatever she does has a justification. “Once, a woman who lost her husband told me with tear-filled eyes that widow pension was the first earning she got in her life. It is not Jisha’s mother who caused her death, but a criminal living among us. Whatever she does, tipping waiters heavily or buying the sarees she likes, will have justification because it was she who had been living a marginalised life, not those who point fingers at her.”
Actor Sreedevi Unni, mother of late actor Monisha, feels that what Rajeshwari did was right. “Her sorrow would never leave her and nobody can ease it. The verdict (gallows to the killer) might have given her a sense of relief; however, the pain of losing a daughter will stay with her till her last breath. Why should she wear a dress that projects her grief? Will doing so ease her grief,” asks Sreedevi. “If she is someone who committed a crime and walked around dressing up nonchalantly, that is a different case. Here, this girl’s mother is innocent. She has actually disguised her pain by coming out well in public and she should do that always. She should set an example. None should criticise her,” she adds. “This ostracism is something I have faced after my husband passed away eight years ago,” reveals Chandini Santosh, another writer, who stresses on how Malayalis are bothered about a woman’s appearance, when she crosses 30 or, 50, when she has grandkids or when her husband dies.
“At the wedding of my neighbour’s daughter, the bride’s mother was worried if I — a childless woman who has lost her husband — would bless the couple and bring them bad luck. I understood that and stayed away. It was ridiculous and I felt like laughing. But sometimes, it hurts,” she says. “Rajeshwari has suffered a lot in life. She is the one who lost her daughter, not us. Despite poverty, she encouraged Jisha to study law. People would definitely have opposed her decision back then. She, like in those days, need not bother about people even now and should carry on. Now she has a better life, house and money, let her live well,” says Chandini. As Sreedevi puts it, society should help her move on instead of tarnishing her spirit to fight. “We shouldn’t push her to sorrow again. The negative response is the opinion of a minority — the narrow-minded. We can’t change them. They should change themselves. But, at least let her be like that. Let her live in peace.”
(With inputs from Elizabeth Thomas)...